I keep hearing from parents of kids of various ages and sizes that their kids, while in tantrum mode, will declare, "I hate you," or "You never loved me" or things of that ilk. Just hearing that makes my heart hurt. And it's not even coming from my kids. Because my kids don't do that.
I'm not saying this to brag. I'm not even sure what, if anything, it signifies. Sometimes, it even worries me. Does the fact that they never tell me they hate me mean that I've actually succeeded in teaching them about how words have the power to hurt? Or does it mean that I've instilled such fear in them that they don't feel they can say 'anything' to me and know that it will still be OK, that words may hurt but they don't kill love? Are they so aware of my love that they simply don't question it? Or are they afraid that if they question it, they may not get the answer they're looking for?
My kids are (or, in Em's case, have been...and will likely be again) world-class tantrum-throwers. N cries and screams at us on a daily basis. But the words are so much less...strong. They're things like, "FINE!" accompanied by a slamming door. Or "That hurts my feelings!" Or "WhatEVER!" (Yes, that comes from a 7-year-old boy. Yes, it's almost impossible not to laugh at it.) And, of course, I do get called names. But they're names like "Meanie." I can live with that.
Maybe it's just that kids know what their parents are capable of handling? Maybe they just know, intuitively, whether their parent is the type who can take being told, "I hate you," and come back with a cuddle and an "I understand how you feel right now," or whether their parent is the type who would respond to such a statement by bursting into tears (or into a rage). Do you think it's possible that kids actually instinctively tailor their early year rebellions to they type of parent they have?
I have a sort of mantra I used to use all the time whenever I'd get white-hot angry at the kids: As soon as I could pull myself together, I'd make sure to add to whatever tirade I was spewing at them, "Of course, no matter how angry I am at you right now [or...no matter how much I don't like your behavior right now...] I always love you." And nowadays, if I forget to say that when I'm screaming at N to go to his room, he will often look back at me with an anxious face and say, "But you still love me, right?" And even at my angriest, I will be able to manage to say, "I'm not very happy with you, but yes, I still love you." And that seems to make a difference. But if he's all sulky and angry with me and I ask the same thing, he will deny that he still loves me. Or he will say, "I love you, but I really don't love you now." That's as bad as it gets. I'm just not sure if that's a good thing.